Softball fans, buckle up. The NCAA Division I Softball Tournament Regional round coverage has been elevated to another level with the debut of ESPN’s Bases Loaded.
“Fans want to see ACTION,” Bases Loaded coordinating producer Baron Miller states emphatically.
And action they will get.
Originating from ESPN’s Charlotte, N.C. studios, Bases Loaded will provide live look-ins to multiple games, allowing fans to watch key moments, clutch plays, high-pressure situations as they unfold in real time throughout the weekend.
“Ultimately we are focused on putting the best action on our air at all times throughout the entire weekend,” continued Miller, who will share coordinating producer duties with Desmond Wallace. “We will be smart with our telecast — have [anchors] Matt [Schick] and Brendan [Fitzgerald] provide context to the viewer why this game/out/batter/etc. is important. Context is important…but action is king.”
This weekend, Bases Loaded will be available starting at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s action will be highlighted by 48 games and Sunday will feature up to 32 additional games with 16 teams advancing to the Super Regionals.
With action originating from 16 sites, the communication among everyone working on the telecast is vital.
“The biggest key is communication between the studio and the control room,” explains Schick. “The producer lets us (the analyst and myself) know where we’re headed next. Conversely, if we see a game that’s reaching a critical juncture or notice a key storyline evolving elsewhere, we’ll make the producer aware of it. The lines of communication have to be open.”
Adds Fitzgerald, “As we go game to game, my philosophy will be to just give the vital info and let the viewer hear the game call as much as possible. But, keeping track of so many games in a tournament atmosphere with a team’s season on the line brings a new element that’s really exciting.”
For Schick, Fitzgerald and analyst Garland Cooper, the studio will resemble a sports fan’s heaven. “We will have eight wall-mounted flat-screens in the studio,” explains Schick. “With Bases Loaded, I need to pay close attention to every game. If we switch from one game to another, I have to quickly clarify to the viewer where we’re going and why.”
Bases Loaded is similar to ESPN’s Goal Line (for college football) and Buzzer Beater (for college basketball) services. Bases Loaded has been utilized during the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship the last two years and Miller will rely on his experience producing that telecast heading into the weekend.
“Softball will be different because it is a faster game than baseball, but having done this in the past—we really understand now how to more quickly get from one game to another and how quickly we need to be ready to change our plan and react to the games being played.
It is a challenge—but it is fun. There is no better way to watch the college softball and baseball tournaments than by watching Bases Loaded.”